PIF virtual meeting set for December, SG position maybe addressed

ISLANDTIMES – by Bernadette CarreonOctober 30, 2020

Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) Chair and Prime Minister of Tuvalu, Kausea Natano said the virtual meeting to discuss the selection process of the forum secretariat’s Secretary General has been set for December.
In an interview Natano revealed meeting dates as Dec. 16, 17 and 18.
“Those are the dates that they confirmed to get all the leaders to attend the virtual meeting,” Natano said.
The prime minister said that the dates were set after consultation with other Forum leaders on the best dates to conduct the virtual meeting.
He said that he is aware of the informal agreement among the leaders and is hopeful that leaders who have candidates for the seat will discuss among themselves and come out with a consensus.
Natano said it was proposed that the leaders discuss among themselves and come up with the two final candidates through an elimination process.
Natano said the proposed selection process should be sorted out “ the Pacific way.”
“The Pacific way is sorting out the differences and also trying to maintain solidarity, and agree on a peaceful way. I think we will try and sort out the differences.”
The leaders of five Micronesian nations of Palau, Nauru, Kiribati, FSM, and Marshall Islands threatened to withdraw from the Forum unless they get their turn to head the PIF Secretariat.
President Tommy Remengesau said it would make Micronesia a “joke” if they remain in the regional grouping that does not honor the “gentleman’s agreement.”
The five leaders said there would be no longer any value in being a part of the Forum if their wishes were not heard.
Papua New Guinea’s Dame Meg Taylor, who has led the forum since 2014, is set to end her term this year.
The selection of her replacement would have been done face-to face but due to COVID-19 pandemic, leaders, including Remengesau said a virtual meeting will be held to discuss the selection of the new SG.
President Remengesau Jr. Marshall Island President David Kabua, Nauru President Lionel Rouwen Aingimea, Kiribati President Taneti Maamau and FSM President David Panuelo in a statement earlier sent to the PIF Chair said that while they agree to a Virtual Special Forum Leaders Retreat in 2020, they said it’s important to use that meeting to select the new Secretary-General of the PIF Secretariat.
“Regarding your recommendations that the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders postpone the decision to appoint the Secretary-General until the next face-to-face meeting of the PIF Leaders Retreat, we respectfully disagree and do not support this suggestion,”
The leaders said although COVID-19 has been very challenging to the Pacific nations, “there is a need to find innovative ways for the PIFS to remain the region’s premier dynamic organization ,” adding that the pandemic is not a good enough reason to postpone the appointment of a new SG.
“This pandemic must not prevent us from continuing to address important priorities of the region, even if decision making methods are exceptional. There is no valid reason why Forum Leaders’ cannot address and resolve the selection of the Secretary General during the Virtual Forum Leaders’ Retreat this year.
It’s a five way race to succeed Dame Meg Taylor. Micronesia’s nominee is Gerald Zackios, the Marshall Islands Ambassador to the U.S.
The other candidates are Henry Puna, former Cook Islands PM; Inoke Kubuabola, Fiji’s former Foreign Minister; Amelia Kinahoi Siamomua, the head of the Commonwealth’s Gender section; Dr Jimmie Rodgers, former Director General of the Pacific Community.


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